Imperial China

White Bear Yard, 25a Lisle Street
Chinatown, London
Tel: 020 7734 3388 Leicester Square 0.1 miles

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Jay Rayner's review of Imperial China (The Observer)
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Imperial China reviews

Nothing worse than rude staff!

Useful review?
 by Andy G., 19 Jun 2011
The restaurant decor okay, WC clean, environment with water and fish okay. Unfortunately this is all I can say positive about this restaurant!

I visited this place with my husband, as our team's Xmas trip here was cancelled due to snow (I am so glad we did not make it then, as Xmas team parties are special). The food was lousy (our local Chinese restaurant's standards are way above this place) and it was a real disappointment. The staff were terrible too - the male and female in our section seemed to be having a domestic in their own language most of the time we waited for our food... uh!

I will never go there again nor recommend this place to anyone but as a 'sign poster'.

Useful review?
 by Beejaye, 17 Apr 2011
This has been, and still is, my favourite Chinese restaurant in Soho. The place is clean and the decor good. Food is generally above average and the service attentive. I would recommend it to anyone.

Useful review?
 by Kingston78, 10 Dec 2010
Weak, almost sub-standard, sticky sweet 'British' Chinese food that hardly resembles the real thing, served by possibly the worst waitresses in or out of China. A properly overrated and overpriced dump, run by idiots. Please support real Chinese food and avoid this at all costs.

Useful review?
 by martinpetrie, 21 Mar 2010
If you are Chinese and you feel like being discriminated against, go to Imperial China. I just came back from dinner tonight, and they allowed two groups that arrived after me to go before me (both groups of Westerners, WITH THE SAME NUMBER OF PEOPLE). When I finally complained, they told me that those people had reservations, even though I had tried earlier in the week and they had told me that they do not allow reservations after 6pm on Saturdays and despite the fact I was standing in line to get a table at 7:30pm.

Food was even worse than the service. Three cups chicken tasted like cashew chicken without the cashews. Beef stir fried with black bean sauce tasted of curry powder and meat tenderizer. Pipa tofu had the consistency of a fishball. Belachan stir fried morning glory tasted like boiled vegetables with strips of chilli. When we complained, the waiter had the nerve to say that this is a Chinese restaurant, and since we had ordered off the Western menu we should expect mediocre food. He himself wouldn't have ordered what we had because it's not proper Chinese food! Last time I checked, I didn't know a Chinese chef can't stir fry morning glory without boiling it! Nor did I know that Chinese chefs are completely incapable of deep frying tofu and make a corn starch slurry without making it taste like gruel.

Thanks for a great night IC. Next time I feel like getting ripped off and treated like a second class citizen, I'll be sure to drop by and say hi.

Useful review?
 by janetout, 27 Feb 2010
It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but when more effort has gone into the surroundings than the food something is wrong!

Average, non-offensive stuff that won't change your life BUT probably one of the most decent Chinese restos in the neighbourhood.

Useful review?
 by Milla (46 reviews), 08 Dec 2008
I recently organised a hen party in one of the private karaoke rooms at Imperial China. I was a little nervous, having read some not great reviews. But having had a brilliant time I wanted to put a good review up to counteract the less positive ones!

The food was fantastic, some of the best Chinese food I've ever had. The vegetarian and the one with food allergies (there is always one!) were very well looked after. Two less people turned up on the night and we were not charged for them (even though the small print says you will be). There was so much food and we did feel bad that so much of it went to waste. The house wine was very reasonable at £12.90 a bottle and was very drinkable. They left all the empty bottles on a side table - I guess this was in case anyone wanted to question the bill at the end but we felt no need (but I thought this was good).

The staff and service were amazing - very attentive and polite, though they were a little quick clearing the plates away and ushering us out at end of the night. The place was very clean and very plush. The karaoke was great - very up-to-date and easy to use. All the other rooms seemed to be having equally as good a time as us. I (along with all the 25-strong hen party) were very impressed and no one had a bad thing to say about it. We had the £27.50 set menu and drank A LOT for 4 hours. The final bill worked out at £50 a head, which we all thought was very reasonable.

I would heartily recommend this restaurant for any sort of party in the private rooms. And, having sampled the food, I would say the a la carte menu must be great and will certainly be returning for a meal.

Useful review?
 by racheln, 06 Oct 2008
Stopped by for Dim Sum, food was out in a flash and never went without a drink or tea. All ordered was delicious and as good as anything I have had in the past. I imagine at peak times can be chaotic but that is what Dim Sum is all about noise, bustle and food...

Useful review?
 by simive01 (2 reviews), 21 May 2008
This Chinese restaurant in the heart of Chinatown is great for dim sum. I usually go to three different dim sum restaurants (the other two being Royal China - either Baker Street or Canary Wharf branches, and Yauatcha), but this one is the most convenient for people to meet up, being so central, and also the cheapest out of the three (making it particularly good for larger groups!). I take all my friends and family there and they all like it very much. It's not easy to find a decent dim sum restaurant in London, and once you find one, it's advisable to stick to it.

I like the dark wood decor, and the interior comes across as clean and subtly stylish with the white table linen, while the staff are welcoming and polite.

There is a wide choice of dim sum, and sadly I always order the same things (why take the risk with new dishes when the favourites are so consistently good?): prawn dumplings (as a child, I was called 'Prawn Dumpling Princess'), prawn and chive dumplings, prawn cheung fun, roast pork cheung fun, egg custard tarts (3 small ones on a plate), steamed spare ribs with black beans, squid cakes with fresh coriander, seafood ho fun noodles and sometimes pork and preserved egg congee. The seafood here is very fresh and the prawns in particular are always firm and crunchy to the bite. £25.00, including service charge, for two people would leave you more than comfortably full at lunchtime.

A word of warning: I had dinner here once and it was atrocious. As we were entertaining a friend visiting from China, I felt very embarrassed and decided never to eat here in the evenings again. Dim sum however is different, as it is prepared by specialist chefs who have nothing to do with the evening meals. And I'm Chinese by the way...

Useful review? 1
 by bobbypants (52 reviews), 02 Oct 2007
We had a room to ourselves. They gave us privacy and were very good at handling a large crowd. Food... I can't remember!! Drink... lovely.

Useful review?
 by genea, 03 Aug 2006
Disregarding communication difficulties, this place is very enjoyable. Lovely setting, and the prices are well-suited to above-standard food. Very tasty, and good service.

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 by eljay2001 (20 reviews), 31 Jul 2006
Have had dinner here several times, as a couple or in groups, and always had an excellent time. Delicious food and efficient service.

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 by Pierre Gagnaire Jnr. (2 reviews), 22 Feb 2006
Unfortunately this was the worst eating out experience of my life. The food was lukewarm and nothing special, the staff and service were unhelpful and frosty, and the bill at the end was unbelievable.

Useful review?
 by TP441100, 16 Dec 2005
Great service, atmosphere and good food. We had a great time in the karaoke room and will definitely be going back.

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 by Anonymous, 05 Dec 2005
They have a November special offer for the karaoke room. Really great - we had fun.

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 by sussi, 04 Nov 2005
Food was average but the service was quick.

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 by rambo, 18 Jul 2005
Been twice and had none of the horror stories below. I think it's not far behind Yauatcha in terms of quality of the dim sum, especially the seafood ones. Very clean tastes.

Useful review?
 by Anonymous, 13 Jun 2005
Felt I had to write a balancing review to those of August 2004. Went there Saturday evening for the first time since their big refurbishment and the two of us enjoyed it.

We had not booked so being asked to spend 20 mins in the stylish bar was no hardship, especially as we had our table in half that time. From a shortish menu, containing few surprises outside the Cantonese mainstream, we selected some Chicken and Sweet Corn and Won Ton soups, Lemon Chicken, Fried Squid with Spicy Salt and Pepper, Stir Fried Bok Choy, Plain Noodles and Bean Sprouts and some good sticky boiled rice. All came quickly and had a lightness and freshness of flavour, especially the Lemon Chicken's sauce, that suggested some subtle care in the kitchen. Service was good, friendly and informative without being intrusive - we felt equally welcome despite ordering so few dishes and only cha to follow up our G&Ts from the bar.

If you don't expect cutting edge cooking but do value good service, competent cooking and being able to converse without shouting and a bit more space than usual between tables in Chinatown then you shouldn't be disappointed.

Useful review?
 by Anonymous, 25 Apr 2005
Positively the absolute WORST restaurant I've been to, and I've been to at least 50 in my time. The service was so slow that a snail could beat them on a day off, the food was served badly and tasted dull, the staff don't know what they're doing and the whole experience was so bad that it has prompted me to write a review for the first time. Never again!

Useful review? 1
 by Anonymous, 16 Aug 2004
The worst restaurant experience I had was yesterday at the Imperial China. We went for dim sum there for the first time, as we needed a change and we were attracted by the deco of the restaurant. From there on it all went wrong. The staff was unhelpful and looked seriously dumb. The spoons were covered with food and had to ask twice to have a clean one. We received a meat dish we never ordered. After 40 minutes of waiting for the rest of our dishes, we were told that they had run out of fish so could not provide one of the dishes we ordered. 20 minutes later, the last dish still had not arrived so I had to cancel it. When I asked for the bill, they said we would have to wait 10 minutes as their computers went down. Lido and Joy King Lau offer much better food and service.

Useful review?
 by Anonymous, 16 Aug 2004

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